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The Gospel proclaimed a salvation that excluded no one

Sixth Sunday of the Year: Lev 13:1-2 & 44-46; Ps 32; 1 Cor 10:31-11:1; Mk 1:40-45

By on Saturday, 11 February 2012

“A man infected with leprosy must shield his upper lip and cry: ‘Unclean, unclean.’ As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live apart; he must live outside the camp.”

The Old Testament laws governing the management of leprosy, the most feared affliction of the ancient world, seem harsh and insensitive to a scientific age. This terrible disease visited the most appalling disfigurement of its victims. Perhaps even worse than the disease itself was the social isolation and alienation that the law imposed. We must, of course, set these regulations against a world that understood little of the causes of leprosy. The only way to protect society from this highly contagious disease was the strict quarantine imposed by the law.

Leprosy, of course, is not the only affliction that marginalises and excludes people from our society. In subtle, and sometimes unconscious ways, our sinful attitudes and inadequacies can make many feel as if they were lepers. The bereaved frequently speak of people crossing the street to avoid them, presumably because they do not know how to respond to their grief. Offenders who have served their sentences, and are making every effort to build a new life, frequently cannot pass beyond closed doors. Many others find themselves victimised by popular prejudices. Among these we might include, at times, the unemployed living on social welfare, immigrants and those suffering mental illness of every kind. Many, in the course of their lives, will, like the proverbial leper, have felt the pain of social isolation.

The Gospel proclaimed a salvation that challenged the prejudices and exclusions of the ancient world. No one was excluded. Nobody was beyond salvation. This fundamental truth was encapsulated in the encounter of Jesus with the leper. “A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to! Be cured!’ ”

This brief narrative records not only the healing, but the reaction of Jesus to the suffering of the leper. There was an unspoken compassion, an acceptance that went beyond words, as Jesus reached out an touched what everybody else feared and rejected. The healing was not simply physical. It was emotional. The man went away, and, with a new sense of belonging and acceptance, rejoiced to speak about Jesus.

The Gospel summons a sinful people to measure its many prejudices against the generosity with which Jesus accepted those rejected by society. Ultimately he came to be known as one who ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners, as the one who overturned the many prejudices of his own day.

It is sometimes difficult to stand beside those vilified by popular opinion. Let us pray that we, through the Lord, might become to the marginalised a means of healing and welcome.

Above all, let us remember that the Lord, who embraced the leper, will never refuse a humble and contrite heart.

The darkest isolation is never beyond Christ’s healing touch. In the words of St Paul, nothing can ever come between us and the love of God in Christ Jesus.

  • kj

    Sorry, but that statement is deceptive. While the proclamation is to all not everyone is able to enter heaven, as Jesus pointed out many leaving from following him. Only those written in the book of life are able to be saved.

  • Joe Q

     The Council of Trent infallibly said in the VII session in canon IV, “If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema (excommunicated).” http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct07.html

  • Joe Q

    Baptism and going to confession after mortal sin are the normal ways of salvation. Lumen Gentium of Vatican II has the special way:
    “Those also can attain to salvation who through !!Condition!!!->no
    fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Churchyet sincerely
    seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known
    to them through the dictates of conscience.Notice is says can attain not have.

  • No name Jane

    And Vatican II proclaimed this:

    VATICAN II declared this in #7 of it’s decree Ad Gentes:
    all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church’s preaching, and
    all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which
    is His body. For Christ Himself “by stressing in express language the
    necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same
    time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by
    baptism, as by a door. Therefore those men cannot be saved, who though
    aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something
    necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it.”
    (Dogmatic constitution by Vatican II: Lumen Gentium 14) Therefore though
    God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the
    Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him
    (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at
    the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary
    activity today as always retains its power and necessity.”

    Who does this influential statement say will be saved?

    All are called but not many care enough to say yes.